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Silence - Silence

Silence on big issues risks public trust

Charity leaders should be “really deliberate on rejecting the narratives that we currently have” and calling out problems, or risk losing the trust of their beneficiaries, charity leaders have heard.

Immy Kaur, co-founder of Impact Hub, was speaking at NPC’s annual conference about whether charity leaders are engaging correctly with political issues, and whether the sector's perceived silence was impacting public trust.

Kaur said that many communities feel “the silence around the big issues of the day is a real challenge”, which “adds to the declining public trust”. She said that leaders should “take responsibility for the new narratives” that might come from this “rapidly changing ecology” and be “really deliberate on rejecting the narratives that we currently have”.

She added: “Some people are gagged on some stuff”, but “in complex times, as leaders, we need to spend time together developing new narratives, being bolder, taking steps, because a lot of people are looking to many of us… to build that new hope”.

As part of the panel discussion, Karl Wilding, chief executive of NCVO, added that “there needs to be a much stronger voice”, saying NCVO wants to change how it works with government.

He said he feels “frustrated” that “not only does it [government] not recognise the impact that organisations have and what they can achieve by working with them, but too often it actually mitigates against them and it gets in the way of those organisations making a difference”.

Helen Stephenson, the chief executive of the Charity Commission, said divides in the country “are not necessarily drawn along party political lines”, so charity workers should “think carefully” about what they say. “Your beneficiaries, your trustees and your volunteers may hold very different worldviews from you, and so when you are speaking up on behalf of your charity, make sure that you are speaking up on behalf of your cause and your beneficiaries, not on your worldview.”

She added: “We are here to represent the public interest. We regulate on behalf of the public. It is not our job to tell the public why they should trust charities.”

Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said that public trust in charities is “critical to our being”. It allows charities “to reach into communities in a way that the state cannot, because there is a trust between us and the beneficiaries of our services.”

“We must protect that, we cannot bury our heads in the sand,” he said, because this trust “is being challenged” and “it is fragile” he said. Khan also spoke about the importance of charities working with politicians to have their causes heard.

“We are living in really difficult times and the charity voice needs to understand that,” he said. But “we cannot afford to be polarised”, and the “politics of the day, whatever it might be, is what it is. We have to be prepared to work with the politicians of the day if we are going to fulfill our mission of standing up for the most vulnerable in society, and that means we cannot take sides”, he concluded.

Read: Civil Society - Being silent on the big issues of the day risks fall in public trust, charities told